Senator Laphonza Romanique Butler.
Only the third woman to serve as a United States Senator, she is the first openly gay Black woman to serve as Senator.
Born in Mississippi and a graduate of Jackson State University, she is the former President of EMILY’s List and a former Union Organizer.
The Vice-President will swear her in today.
WASHINGTON — Laphonza Butler was a young organizer learning her way around California politics when she met Kamala Harris, then district attorney of San Francisco.
Butler, who was 30 at the time, had recently moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast to oversee a large union of long-term care and assisted living workers. Harris, more than a decade her senior, was running for state attorney general.
But over time, the two Black women − both of whom attended historically Black universities − would form a close relationship. They bonded over how to advance the economic security and well-being of women.
“I would always call her for advice. She would always call me for advice,” 44-year-old Butler told USA TODAY in a 2022 interview.
Now, the women have something else to talk about: Butler’s appointment to fill the U.S. Senate seat that Dianne Feinstein held until her death last week.
A longtime organizer with union roots
Butler was in her twenties, organizing food service workers and janitors, when she left for California. The move to SEIU 2015 was a big step for Butler, who did not have experience leading a union chapter.
She consolidated membership of the local to turn it into the largest union in California and the largest union of home health workers. The changes ruffled some other union organizers, as she quickly became a powerful force within the SEIU.
She stayed with the union for nearly a decade, leaving to become a partner at the firm that advised Harris in her 2019 presidential bid. Butler served as a senior adviser on the campaign that ended with Harris quitting the race before any of the contests were held.
Work as EMILY’s List abortion rights advocate
Butler left politics to advise Airbnb before becoming the first woman of color to serve as president of EMILY’s List nearly two years ago in September of 2021. The organization works to elect Democratic, pro-abortion rights women.
She became a leading voice in the progressive movement against the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case and GOP-backed laws that curb abortion access in individual states.
The Republican Party “has been working to chip away at a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and the freedom to decide when she wants to have a family,” Butler told USA TODAY after the Supreme Court opinion leaked.
In the position she helped organize a political rally with other abortion rights groups in support of President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris on the day that the pair announced their reelection bid in April.
First Black LGBTQ+ person to represent California in Senate
Butler will be the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the Senate and the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress.
Butler and her partner, Neneki Lee, share a daughter, Nylah.